Turkey’s main opposition municipalities start recognizing cemevis as places of worship
ISTANBUL – Doğan News AgencyMunicipalities run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) have started recognizing cemevis as places of worship, while also pledging to meet the needs of cemevis, or Alevi houses of worship.
CHP Deputy Head Veli Ağbaba announced in parliament on Jan. 30, together with the heads of two Alevi foundations, that CHP-run municipalities would start legally recognize cemevis as places of worship, thus allowing them to use the rights granted by law.
Since Ağbaba’s announcement, various CHP municipalities have either decided to grant cemevis the status of legal places of worship or have put the topic on the agenda for discussion in their next meeting.
While Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district, İzmir’s Karşıyaka and Konak districts, and Mersin’s Mezitli and Akdeniz districts, have decided to grant cemevis the status as legal places, Istanbul’s Avcılar district has decided to take the topic onto its agenda and have a report prepared on the issue ahead of the next meeting.
Although the government announced that it was working on an Alevi draft reform bill in early December 2014, which could give Alevi students the right to take elective religion courses in schools, while possibly also officially recognizing cemevis as places of worship by the state, a draft reform bill has yet to be seen.
The draft bill announcement had come shortly after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Turkey’s public policies regarding cemevis were discriminating against the Alevi community.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had said during his Nov. 23 visit to the eastern province of Tunceli, where a majority of residents are Alevis, that the government was strongly against discrimination against Alevi citizens and he will “personally follow-up” any instances of official discrimination.
“We will not let any kind of discrimination take place against our Alevi brothers and sisters. I will talk to Alevi opinion leaders about the status of cemevis. From now on, we will have only one criterion in our official appointments: Qualifications,” Davutoğlu had said.
Meanwhile, several leading Alevi associations have decided to hold a large rally, titled the “Alevi Unity Solidarity Meeting,” in Istanbul on Feb. 8. The group also decided to hold meetings with the government and political parties, in an attempt to voice their demands and make sure that these are included in parties’ election campaign bids in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in June.